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U.S. Army Releases Climate Resilience Handbook

By Dr. Marc Kodack

The U.S. Army has published the Army Climate Resilience Handbook (ACRH) for use by installation planners to assess climate risk as they write or revise a diversity of plans, including real property master plans, Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans, Installation Energy and Water Plans, and emergency management plans. The handbook is organized around a four-step, risk-informed planning process with the goal of increasing climate resilience. An integral part of the process is the on-line Army Climate Assessment Tool (ACAT). The ACAT contains information on individual installations that planners can use to determine current extreme weather and climate change effects, infrastructure, and assets that are vulnerable to these effects, and adaptation measures that can be used to increase an installation’s climate resilience.

The creation of the ACRH was in response to Congressional (here and here), Department of Defense (DoD), and Army requirements for installations to address climate change risks to its’ ability to continue to perform multiple national security missions. The ACRH builds on existing Army efforts to identify and address water and energy vulnerabilities at its’ installations. I

The installation risk-informed climate resilience planning process is iterative and consists of four steps: (1) set goals and objectives for the plan to be written and/or revised, (2) determine what extreme weather events may occur along with eight climate related effects, (3) determine what facilities, infrastructure, assets, and missions may be vulnerable, then (4) determine which adaptation measures to use, e.g., non-structural, structural, nature-based. As new or revised climate information becomes available in the future, this process should be re-run to incorporate the revised information. The end result of this planning effort will be to increase installation resilience to climate change. This process is also aligned with the Navy’s climate change planning handbook. The ACRH then provides a detailed example of how the risk-informed planning process can be used at a fictitious installation.

Step 2 of the planning process is where the ACAT is used. Based on DoD and Congressional interests to the current and future vulnerability of installations from climate change, the ACAT provides planners with authoritative national data sets on the following: “heat impacts, drought, wildfire, energy demand for heating and cooling, land degradation (soil loss, permafrost thaw, coastal erosion), riverine flooding, coastal flooding, historic extremes.” Planners can use these data as a screening tool to analyze their installation’s vulnerability to each risk. For future climate forecasts, the ACAT uses a 32-model ensemble of different climate models to obtain an average of possible future conditions for an area for the years 2050 and 2085 based on two different global greenhouse gas scenarios. The eight risks mentioned can then be viewed for each scenario. The ACRH concludes by providing more information on the eight risks, the use of the ACAT, and examples of adaptation measures in the appendices.

With the ACRH, the Army provides planners with an approach, risk-informed planning, and a tool, the ACAT, that enables the incorporation of climate change into all planning efforts and products. As climate change is initially incorporated into each planning cycle, each installation will begin to better understand their vulnerability to the diverse variety of climate risks to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the overall risks that an installation faces to its’ missions and its’ ability to maintain the desired levels of readiness. Currently, the ACAT does not include overseas Army installations, such as those in Germany, Italy, Japan, or Korea. If overseas installations are included in a future update to ACAT, the Army will have further increase its’ global installation climate resilience.

Dr. Marc Kodack is Senior Fellow at the Center for Climate and Security and former Sustainability and Water Program Manager in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability.

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